Pastoral Message – March 19, 2023
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…
In our country today, nearly every event (whether tragic, joyful, natural or manmade), is seized upon as a political event. Folks from “both sides of the aisle” quickly line up to blindly express extreme views in an attempt to capitalize on the event to support their agendas. Often, their blindness prevents them from truly seeing the circumstances or the impact on the people that are involved. As we see from today’s Gospel passage, this tendency also existed 2,000 years ago. The miraculous story of the healing of the “man born blind” is one of the great moments in the lives of Jesus and His disciples as well as in the lives of the formerly blind man, his parents, his family and his friends. Yet, the Pharisees ignore the remarkable cure and the joy that it causes because they refuse to see beyond their contrary agenda.
They support their agenda with their unwavering pride and arrogance and are “blind” to any conflicting information or data. In fact, their blinding “institutional bias” is so overwhelming that, not only are they incapable of being cured of their blindness, they refuse to allow anyone else to be cured. As we read the familiar story today, with the benefit of knowing that Jesus ultimately prevails, it is relatively easy for us to recognize that the healing of the blind man leads us to a much deeper understanding of who Jesus is and who we are striving to be in our relationship with Jesus. Yet, there continues to be many people, with their own agendas, who remain blind to the truth of this miracle, the truth of the divinity of Jesus, and the truth of the eternal kingdom.
John mentions blindness and sight in 24 of the chapter’s 41 verses. He repeats the details of the miracle four times. At the center of the narrative is Jesus, the giver of sight and the “light of the world,” which enables true sight to be possible. Because we are all blind to some extent, we need Jesus in our lives to help us to see more clearly and to protect us from those who prefer that we remain blind. For instance, when Jesus learns that the Pharisees had thrown the blind man out of the synagogue, He found him, protected him, and inspired him. As a result, truly seeing Jesus not only allows us to recognize and believe in Jesus, seeing Him also expresses our relationship with Jesus and as a beloved child of our Heavenly Father.
Underlying the discussion of light and sight (in relation to darkness and blindness) is a question about who is sinful and what constitutes sin. First, it is the disciples’ who are concerned about sin when they see the man born blind and ask Jesus whether his blindness was the result of his sin or that of parents. Jesus rejects their question entirely and, instead, explains that this is an instance which will serve to reveal the glory of God.
Like the disciples, the Pharisees also conclude that sin caused the man’s blindness, but then they go a step further and raise the issue of Jesus’ sinfulness several times through the passage. Jesus responds by challenging their conclusions and by condemning the Pharisees. He warns them that their sin remains because, unlike the blind man, who recognizes the grace of God in Jesus’ bestowal of his sight, the Pharisees insist that they see and know everything already. Their pride prevents them from seeing and accepting the gift of Jesus, who can only give sight to those who know and admit that they are blind.
The conflict with the Pharisees shapes the entire central section of the passage, first as they encounter the man born blind, then as they interrogate his parents, and finally as they interrogate the man born blind a second time and then throw him out. As the attitude of the religious authorities hardens and darkens, the man born blind grows in insight and moves from identifying his healer only as “the man called Jesus” to calling Jesus “a prophet” and then, when further pressed, concluding that Jesus must be “from God.” Finally, when Jesus reveals himself fully to him as the Son of Man, the man “sees” and accepts this truth and bows down before Him in worship.
As Catholic Christians, it is likely that we, like Jesus and the blind man, may find ourselves at odds with the extremists and the powerful who, with great pride and arrogance, can only see their own agendas and are blind to all else. Ideally, our response to these sources of darkness, should be like that of the blind man who has the courage again and again to say what he knows, to speak truth to power, to honestly share what he knows about the amazing grace that has touched him. When he is blessed with the healing power and the grace of our Lord, the blind man humbly admits that he may not know everything, but: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” With God’s grace, I pray that we may all be able to humbly recognize our blindness and to gratefully accept God’s healing power!